WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The High Republic subseries through Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star, on sale now.
Throughout the Star Wars: The High Republic subseries, Marchion Ro has served as the Eye of the Nihil from the shadows, obfuscating his role in the Nihil’s operations. This strategy was similar to Sheev Palpatine’s brand of puppet mastery during the Clone Wars. However, with Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star, Marchion Ro revealed himself to be the true architect of the Nihil’s reign of terror and particularly the destruction of the Starlight Beacon. While Marchion currently is enjoying his victory over the Jedi, his decision to reveal his identity could lead to his eventual defeat.
This decision contrasts sharply with Palpatine because most of the galaxy never knew that he was in charge of both sides of the Clone Wars or about his Sith plots, at least not until after his defeat at Endor. Palpatine was a fan of the long game, enacting plots over years and even decades. Palpatine's secrecy was key to his rise and also key to him holding on to power after the rise of his Empire. By keeping his true role in the Clone Wars unknown, Palpatine could still present himself to the galaxy at large as the brave defender of his Empire rather than the architect of the Republic's fall.
In contrast, Marchion Ro began Star Wars: The High Republic in even more obscurity; his face was not even revealed to the audience until the middle of Phase One. Outside of the Nihil, no one really knew that he existed. This secrecy enabled him to enact his plots with little Republic interference. He ultimately was the mastermind behind the Great Disaster, which destroyed ships in hyperspace and spread deadly rubble throughout the Outer Rim. From the shadows, Marchion was also able to find the Great Leveler, a beast that attacks Jedi through the Force and turns them to dust. In The Fallen Star, Marchion also successfully orchestrated a plan that destroyed the Starlight Beacon, the Jedi's main outpost in the Outer Rim.
Meanwhile, the Republic believed that Lourna Dee was the leader of the Nihil, and she effectively served as a decoy and received most of the credit for Marchion's strategies. This lack of credit rankled Marchion, and at the end of Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star, Marchion revealed his identity to the galaxy, using the same frequency that the Starlight Beacon had formerly used as another psychological blow. In his speech, he stated, "Until this hour, however, very few have understood who is responsible for the Nihil. In other words--it's high time I introduced myself. I am Marchion Ro. I am the Eye of the Storm. I am the Eye of the Nihil." Because Marchion believed his victory was complete, he felt no need to keep up the secrecy.
Marchion's speech showed how much of his ego has been invested in his schemes. While each of the Nihil's blows to the Republic was actually a group effort, Marchion clearly saw them as his accomplishments alone. Like Palpatine, Marchion had a great deal of charisma but little affection or loyalty towards his own people. Both men were focused on gaining their own power while projecting that they were acting for the good of their people. In Charles Soule's Star Wars: The High Republic: The Light of the Jedi, Marchion was careful to use "we" and present the Nihil as a united front who would equally share in the rewards of his plans. When later talking with the captured Loden Greatstorm, Marchion made it clear that he viewed the rest of the Nihil as his weapons, not as equals.
However, unlike Palpatine, Marchion could not publicly keep his true feelings secret. At the end of Marchion's reveal speech, he reflected that "he knew he should say [this galaxy] is ours. He should reference all the Nihil in his statement, unify them in this ultimate statement of purpose. Instead, Ro said what he truly believed: 'This galaxy is mine.'" With this pronouncement, Marchion clearly showed that he has been working for his own personal power, not the rise of the Nihil.
Ultimately, both Marchion’s reveal and Palpatine’s secrecy stem from both men’s egos. Marchion’s ego could not let him keep silent about what he viewed as his greatest accomplishment; meanwhile, Palpatine’s ego increased because he enjoyed keeping most of the galaxy in the dark about his true plans, even when he hid evidence in the Republic's heart. Overall, Marchion’s inability to keep up the charade might be his fatal flaw. Now, the Republic knows who the true leader of the Nihil is. Also, due to his choice of words, many of his fellow Nihil now know that Marchion has been working for his own rise in power instead of for the good of the Nihil as a whole. Since the Nihil were active two hundred years before Palpatine's rise, Sheev might have used Marchion's reign of terror as a blueprint or a cautionary tale that helped him take over the galaxy.
KEEP READING: Star Wars Offers a Powerful Counterpoint to the Jedi's Greatest Clone Wars Failure